European neuroscience projects to benefit from hybrid supercomputer memory

To handle large amounts of data from detailed brain models used in the Blue Brain Project and the Human Brain Project, IBM Research, EPFL, and ETH Zürich are collaborating on a new hybrid memory strategy for supercomputers.
The Blue Brain Project, for example, is building detailed models of the rodent brain based on vast amounts of information — incorporating experimental data and a large number of parameters — to describe each neuron and how they connect to each other. The building blocks of the simulation consist of realistic representations of individual neurons, including characteristics like shape, size, and electrical behavior.
Given the roughly 70 million neurons in the brain of a mouse, a huge amount of data needs to be accessed for the simulation to run efficiently.
The Human Brain Project faces the daunting task of providing the technical tools to integrate as much data as possible into detailed models of the human brain by 2023. Estimated at 90 billion neurons, the human brain, compared to that of a mouse, contains roughly 1,000 times more neurons.
“Data-intensive research has supercomputer requirements that go well beyond high computational power,” says EPFL professor Felix Schürmann of the Blue Brain Project in Lausanne. “Here, we investigate different types of memory and how it is used, which is crucial to build detailed models of the brain. But the applications for this technology are much broader.”